Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Monkey Puzzle


That’s me with the monkey and my big brother with the parrot, in 1960. We were at the seaside somewhere, probably Southsea, and had our pictures taken with these exotic pets, presumably because it was out of the ordinary. What can’t be seen is that the monkey was digging its teeth into my hand and it’s a wonder I wasn’t afflicted by some awful disease. I’ve never understood the appeal of monkeys as pets, they’re far too similar to humans; however our picture prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday shows an itinerant musician and one of his monkeys c1900, surrounded by a group of children, and this was the closest I could come to matching it. The little girl next to the man appears to have been crying - perhaps she’s been bitten by the monkey too!


When I opened the link to the original photograph in the Flickr photostream, of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, it showed more of the street scene; the Flickr image is a detail and is copyright free, but the original print is taken from a plate glass negative collected by E.R. Pretyman (1870-1930) and copies may be downloaded for research and study purposes only, so I’ve just included a thumbnail. It’s worth doing so for for your own enjoyment and it will allow you to form an opinion on my next question.

Whist searching through Flickr for pictures of itinerant musicians, hurdy gurdy men, men with monkeys, street entertainers etc, the words ‘organ grinder  gave mixed results, but there in the top right was this picture from 1908.


This one comes from the State Library of Queensland and there are biographical notes about the subject. Anders Bernhardt Nielsen and his pet monkey performing in Brisbane. Anders owned several performing monkeys and travelled to mostly country shows with them, accompanied by his wife Mary Kate. In his younger days Anders and his brother had a travelling boxing tent.

Is it the same man in both photographs? Anders was of small stature and the man in the original Tasmanian print is also small and stocky. He isn't much taller than the children. The clothes, hat, moustache and monkeys outfit all look similar. He is a little older of course in the Brisbane photograph, as can be expected. Looking at the maps its not inconceivable that Anders would have plied his trade along the Queensland coast, the most populated area, and then onto Tasmania.

According to a message board on ancestry.com, posted by a descendant, Anders was born in 1865 in Copenhagen and arrived in Australia in 1885. He lived in Pittsworth, Queensland and married Mary Kate Dobson in 1900, about the time that our prompt picture was taken. They went on to have at least four children; with so many mouths to feed its not surprising that he would travel far afield. This is where I also found that he had most likely 'jumped ship' and settled in Melbourne in 1885 (via Tasmania), thereafter changing his name to avoid detection, and setting up the boxing business with his brother for a while. Its a fascinating story but I didnt want to get into it too much as Anders is not my own ancestor, although I feel I know him so much better now. I wonder if anyone else has made the connection between the two photographs. The power of Sepia Saturday to lead us down untrodden paths, never ceases to amaze me. Dont forget to join other contributor this week to see what they made of the prompt.

24 comments:

  1. It's quite a thought that, until the advent of computer searchable photo galleries, how remote were the chances that anyone would have spotted the same chap in two places 8 years and 100 miles apart! (The same could be said of his monkey :) )

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    1. Very interesting, but I'm just wondering, what is 100 miles apart? If we are talking Brisbane and Tasmania, the distance between them is around 2500 km, which is a fair amount of travelling, especially back in those times.

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    2. Jo, that was my initial thought, but clearly he been to Tasmania before and was already a ‘traveller’ on board ship. Itinerant workers have always been prepared to travel. Think of fairground workers and so on. Perhaps Caminante meant 1000 miles; I’ll ask him when he awakens from his siesta :)

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  2. The moment I saw that second picture, I thought it must be the same man, so Anders in both pix it must be. Not an easy life, but he married & had a family & that's nice to know. Cute shot of you with the monkey. Not sure you would have fared any better with the parrot. Their bite can be pretty vicious if they get too worked up.

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  3. Can't help being a bit sorry for monkeys that have to interact with loads of humans. I bet they don't like it any better than most of us would like having to interact with loads of monkeys!

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  4. Hello,

    How remarkable that you could find such a close match in your own photographs to the 'sepia' prompt image. We too are not very keen on performing animals and would have been positively terrified to have had to hold the monkey.

    And, what amazing detective work on Anders! Yes, we are sure that the two pictures are of the same man and what a fascinating story you have unearthed about him. This is both the wonder and the trouble with the internet. It leads one down all manner of trails of intrigue and before one knows what is happening an entire day has flown by!

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  5. I think too it's the same man and same monkey. Nielsen looks rather dusty and rumpled, so he must have led a difficult life. I imagine the hurdy gurdy man and his monkey were welcome wherever they went, but they seemed to be simply a beggar with a trick.

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  6. Thanks for playing detective...some great connections!

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  7. i agree that both men look very alike. I like monkeys but not keen on touching them either. However, my photo this week is of me with a monkey!! And I realize I have more photos with monkeys over the years, how odd.

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  8. If the second one is the same as the first, he's much the worse for wear.

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  9. Yes, he does appear to be the same man, but a lot older. It must have been a very hard life.
    Good detective work on your part.
    Nancy
    Ladies of the Grove

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  10. I think I would be afraid to hold a monkey unless it seemed very tame. I like seeing dressed up monkeys perform.

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  11. You're the only person I know who's been bitten by a monkey -- you sure don't look very happy in the photo!

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  12. I think you've convinced me to stay clear of monkeys.

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  13. It sure looks like it could be him; he's sure is handsome, btw. What an interesting story that you stumbled upon. I'm sorry that you got bitten by that monkey, ouch! He was probably crabby and ready for his nap.

    Hugs,
    Kathy M.

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  14. I've been bitten by a parrot, but then it would bite anyone who touched it. The miles these men covered is amazing, but at least the monkeys didn't have to walk.

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  15. The TAHO collection is amazing indeed!

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  16. You dig up the most interesting stories. They do look similar men. Loved the Run Away post too.

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  17. Wow! Go you ! What an amazing bit of research. There's a bit of me that wants to put the photos into Picasas and try the old facial recognition thing. But even looking at the monkey I think it's the same monkey don't you?

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  18. Thanks for providing more info on the prompt picture.
    There are indeed enough similarities between the 2 pictures
    to consider this could be the same man.
    You and your brother look cute with those pets.
    Loved how you assumed the girl in the prompt was also bitten like you were.
    As for myself, the only time I was ever bitten
    was by a chihuahua that belonged to a neighbor.
    I was very young then but I've always had a distaste for that breed....

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  19. I don't know why, but I've always felt sorry for the little monkeys dressed up and on tethers. They always looked a bit frightened. How and why did people start doing this?

    But your post was very interesting and a great catch to find this second photo of this man and his little buddy.

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  20. Good sleuthing to follow through the story and I agree it could well be the same man, only older. Despite the distances I guess it's possible that he could have travelled far afield...or perhaps he had a younger brother with a similar fascination with monkeys. That bite would have hurt and you were lucky not to catch anything!

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  21. So enjoyed catching up with your Sepia Saturdays. Always fascinating, like small bright windows on the past. Amazing where an old picture can take you…with the occasional 'interesting' detour! x

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  22. Hi there, it was a nice surprise to stumble across this while browsing the web. Anders was my Great Grandfather. I can say with certainty that, although the two men look similar, the man in the first photo was not Anders. He did not get his monkeys until he was much older than the first picture and did not spend any considerable time in Tasmania and never returned after hitting the mainland.

    Thank you for sharing this photo - It sits with pride in an antique frame in my living room.

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